How to Prepare to Write a Book: 4 Simple Steps You Can Do Now

by Jeff Elkins | 0 comments

You’ve been thinking about it for months, promising yourself that when it arrives you are finally going to knuckle down and write your manuscript. Then you realize, you have no idea how to prepare to write a book.

It doesn't matter if you visit your favorite coffee shop or have the best book ideas in the world. If you don't figure out your ideal writing process, it's unlikely that you'll actually finish your entire book.

How to Prepare for Writing a Book: 4 Steps

If you want to be a successful writer, start your book writing process by evaluating your creative process and when and how you produce the best work.

This may seem overwhelming. Here's the good news: You don’t have to just jump into it feet first.

There are things you can start doing right now to set yourself up for a solid writing routine and good actual writing that will do your rough draft (or final draft) justice.

And if you're looking for an awesome program that can help you stay accountable to your clocking words in your manuscript, join us for the 100 Day Book program!

How to Prepare to Write a Book: 4 Steps to Get You to the Finish Line

It’s near impossible to walk up to the start line of a marathon and run the race successfully if you haven't trained. Doing something that difficult takes preparation.

Writing a novel in a hundred days is like running a marathon. If you want to do it successfully and not completely destroy yourself, you need to prepare for it.

Wondering how to prepare to write a book? Here are four things you can do to get yourself ready for writing your novel:

1. Think Through Your Beginning, Middle, and End

Hopefully you already know that if you want to finish your book, you need a deadline. We suggest 100 Days because it's about the length of a season.

Once you have a hard deadline, you need to know how much distance you have to cover by that date. Just like a marathon. You sign up for a race and then you pace your training to make sure you're ready for race day. Writing your book on 

I know many of us hate the idea of plotting out our books before we start writing. We like being free to go wherever the Muse takes us. We don't want to spend time on a mind map or chapter outline which might work if you want to take years to finish. 

But understanding the direction and basic plot of our novel is a MUST before we start trying to write it in a tight time period.

Take some time think through your book. You don’t need to outline it in detail or use a special formula. You just need to get the basic ideas down.

Take a page out of many a bestselling author and other professional writers who plan before they write: A book plan can help them stay on track, which many writers need when writing on a deadline.

We have a full article on How to Write a Book Plan here to help you take your story idea from your head to the page.

To help you get started with this plan, consider these questions:

  • What is your book genre? Are there any fresh ideas you can build on it that genre?
  • What is the big idea for your book? Can it withstand the length of an entire manuscript?
  • How does your book start?
  • What is the problem the characters have to solve?
  • What do you characters want? What's stopping them?
  • How will you raise the stakes in the book?
  • What happens next? How will things escalate?
  • How does your story end?

Having a basic outline on paper will help give some direction to your writing sessions, so you can hit your deadline.

At the very least, I would encourage you to write a brief summary, or back cover copy for your book idea, if you don't want to develop a detailed outline. And this goes for nonfiction books as well as fiction books.

2. Starting Writing a Little Now

Writing is like working out. The more we do it, the easier it is. And, just like working out, if we haven't done it for a while and then jump right back into it, we are going to be sore and we might even hurt ourselves.

You don’t need to start writing at your 100 Day Book pace, but it wouldn’t hurt to get your writing muscles warmed up a little.

Try writing for a few hours two or three nights a week. That way when you sit down on the first day of 100 Day Book, or another deadline that you've set for your book draft, it isn’t the first time you’ve tried to run in months.

Your writing schedule doesn't have to be time-consuming, but it needs to be consistent. Remember our marathon training example? If you want to run 26.2 miles on race day, you need to get in the mileage each week.

Each time you write, you're establishing the writing habits that will carry you through the process of writing your book. Don't discount the minutes, half hours, and hours you invest!

Here are some actionable steps you can take now to practice writing before you start your book: 

  • Pick a time of day that you can write for fifteen minutes and tackle one of our writing prompts.
  • Pull out your favorite book title, or think of a temporary title for your book idea. Now, write a scene that speaks to that title in some way.
  • Write a reaction paragraph to this story event: A person comes home to their house and finds the lock broken, the house trashed, and everything preserved but their treasured family heirloom.
  • Find a writing space that makes you feel energized. Clean it up if it is a disheveled environment, maybe even place two or three of your favorite books that have a powerful book cover design on your desk for inspiration. Then, put on some energizing music (preferably lyric-less music, if you're like me) and spend ten minutes to write about what you're grateful for today.
  • Find an accountability partner. Spend a bit of time one or two days a week to write together in a writing sprint.
  • Write a book review for the last book you read and loved. Concentrate on what really caught your attention.

3. Write a Few Short Stories With the Main Characters

The hardest thing for me to get right in a novel is each character’s voice. When I’m comfortable with a character’s voice, writing the character is like putting on an old sweatshirt. The character fits comfortably.

If I don’t spend time getting to know my characters, they all come out sounding the same.

One way to get comfortable with your characters is to write a few short stories with them as the protagonists. The stories don’t have to have anything to do with your novel.

Put your character in a coffee house and force them to deal with an angry barista. Have a cop give your character a parking ticket. Take your character on a terrible date.

Putting your character in a difficult situation will help you get to know your character’s voice so when it is time to start the book, you don’t need to spend time writing characters you are uncomfortable with.

4. Dream About Some Scenes

Before a novel really starts to flow, I need to get a few critical scenes in my head.

As I'm preparing to work on a book, for several weeks right before I fall asleep at night, I’ll intentionally try to imagine a scene from the book.

Ideally, I’ll spend the night dreaming about the scene, and then when I wake up in the morning I’m ready to write it. It doesn’t always work that way, but more often than not imaging scenes in this way makes them easier to write.

Before you jump into writing your novel, try journalling out some of the scenes you think you might want to include. Focus on the emotional flow of the scenes and character reactions.

You don't need to write the scenes in full. Just let them start to play in your mind. Try watching the scenes like you are watching a movie. Then play the scenes out through different characters' eyes.

If you have a few good scenes in your head (or better yet, sketched out on paper), your writing will go faster.

Prepare to Write

Yes, you might not start writing your book until the kickoff for 100 Day Book program begins, or whenever you've decided to start writing your book.

But you don’t have to show up unprepared.

Set yourself up for success by getting ready for the difficult task of writing a novel. When you have a writing method and strategy that works for you, you're far more likely to reach your book writing goals.

This could be developing a chapter by chapter book outline, or just getting the bare bones down on a piece of paper.

And when you start, we'll be here cheering for you!

Do you have tricks for how to prepare for writing a book? Share them in the comments.


Take fifteen minutes and write a scene about a character you are thinking about using in your book. Use today’s writing time to get used to their voice.

After you’ve written the scene, share your work in the Pro Practice Workshop (and if you’re not a member yet, you can join here). Then, comment on other writers who have shared their work!

How to Write Like Louise PennyWant to write like Louise Penny? Join our new class and learn how. Learn more and sign up here.

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Jeff Elkins is a writer who lives Baltimore with his wife and five kids. If you enjoy his writing, he'd be honored if you would subscribe to his free monthly newsletter. All subscribers receive a free copy of Jeff's urban fantasy novella "The Window Washing Boy."



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